Supramolecular gels often become destabilized by the transition of the gelator into a more stable crystalline phase, but often the long timescale and sporadic localization of the crystalline phase preclude a persistent observation of this process. We present a pentapeptide gel–crystal phase transition amenable for continuous visualization and quantification by common microscopic methods, allowing the extraction of kinetics and visualization of the dynamics of the transition. Using optical microscopy and microrheology, we show that the transition is a sporadic event in which gel dissolution is associated with microcrystalline growth that follows a sigmoidal rate profile. The two phases are based on β-sheets of similar yet distinct configuration. We also demonstrate that the transition kinetics and crystal morphology can be modulated by extrinsic factors, including temperature, solvent composition, and mechanical perturbation. This work introduces an accessible model system and methodology for studying phase transitions in supramolecular gels.
- phase transitions